Sunday, December 30, 2007

Betrayal in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: March 1, 2001 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #12
Rating: 10/10

A very satisfying entry into the Eve/Roarke series. Yet again, the crimes are taking place because of Roarke, which isn't new to Eve, but it's so prominent and even in their own home this time.

The crime spree starts off with a random victim: a maid doing turn-down service at Roarke's most sumptuous NYC hotel. Each crime gets closer and closer, until Summerset is attacked, but with his wily past, is able to escape the hitman. The layers behind the hitman are extremely well done, and I didn't expect it. I don't want to give anything away here, so read it.

I really loved this one, and it stands out to me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Confessions at Midnight

Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Published: December 26, 2007 (Avon)
Category: Regency Romance
Series: Mayhem in Mayfair #2
Rating: 8/10

I was anxiously awaiting the release of this book because I loved Sleepless at Midnight so much. It wasn't a traditional regency romance, as the heroine was sleeping around with the hero without much hope for marriage, but they loved each other. Confessions follows in that same style.
Carolyn Turner, Viscountess Wingate, is absolutely shocked by the Ladies Literary Society of London's latest selection. Memoirs of a Mistress is scandalously explicit and downright wicked... and it's stirring feelings within Carolyn that she hasn't felt... well, ever! She's sure that this steamy read is the only reason she's succumbing to the charms of notorious rogue Daniel Sutton, Lord Surbrooke. She couldn't possibly be falling for the rascal and his illicit caresses... or could she? The last thing Daniel wanted was to be shackled by marriage vows. He lusted after Carolyn, sure, but he never imagined that once he lured her to his bed he'd never want to let her go. Yet only when a murderer targets his beloved will he be spurred to confess his true love... and claim Carolyn as his bride.
I was a little disappointed by this entry into the series. Carolyn is devoted to the memory of her late husband and feels guilty about her feelings for Daniel. Daniel has loved Carolyn ever since he met her on the night her engagement was announced. After all these years loving her from afar, it takes a remarkable amount of time for them to admit their love for each other. It's one of those miscommunication things: She thinks she might love him too, but what's the point? He says he never wants to marry. He thinks she can't stop thinking about her dead husband, so what's the point of revealing his true feelings?

I was amused by Daniel's jealousy and Matthew's (hero of Sleepless) teasing him about it. The rich American upstart, Jennings, who was also in the previous book, is interested in Carolyn, going so far as to kiss her. However, Jennings is observant enough to realize that his pursuit of the lovely widow is useless because she cares for Daniel, and Daniel is constantly glaring daggers at him for even talking to her. I hope that Jennings will have a nice story in this series. He has a refreshing view (for a rich man), that as an American with lots of money, he's not interested in pedigrees and titles like the British are, so he's free to marry a woman who actually interests him (hence his interest in Sarah in the last book).

The next book in this series is scheduled for January 2009 release. Sigh. That's a really long time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Penelope and Prince Charming

Author: Jennifer Ashley
Published: April 2006 (Leisure)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Nvengaria Trilogy #1
Rating: 7/10

I read The Mad, Bad Duke, the sequel to this book a while ago and really enjoyed reading about the Nvengarians and their magical culture, so I wanted to catch up with the series by going back.
His blue eyes beguiled. His muscular form could have satisfied any fantasy. He had a delicious foreign accent - and to top it off, he was royalty! What woman would dare refuse the most sought-after lover in Europe? Miss Twice-a-Jilt Penelope Trask, that's who. And, unfortunately for Damien, marrying Penelope was the only way to inherit his kingdom. Good thing this enchantingly infuriating woman didn't seem completely immune to his many charms. The passionate way she returned his kisses told Damien he wasn't the only one head over heels. But wooing was difficult amid assassination attempts, wild magic, and desire so strong it threatened to overwhelm him every time they touched. Why had no one mentioned the road to happily-ever-after was so difficult?
I didn't really like Damien as a romantic hero. It really felt like it was more about lust and the prophecy driving him than real love. And I didn't like his bossiness, and that's a lot of bossy, coming from someone who likes alpha male characters.

In terms of the trilogy, Penelope and Prince Charming did a nice a job setting up the world and political intrigue. We also see the growing relationship of Michael Tavistock and Simone Trask, single parents of Megan and Penelope, respectively. It's a very minor side story, but still very sweet, and it had rough patches, despite little spotlight.

I find that Jennifer Ashley's romances aren't fluffy and usually have some grittiness to them. Before Penelope and Damien get their happy ending, they race to Nvengaria, hoping to reach it by Midsummer's Day, and there's nothing easy about their journey. Limited fluffiness aside, there is a LOT of steam to this book. I still prefer The Mad, Bad Duke though.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Judgment in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: September 1, 2000 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #11
Rating: 8/10

I usually go with a 9/10 rating for Roberts' In Death books, but something about the story irritated me. Maybe it was all the cops thinking that Eve was so horrible for cleaning up a corrupt precinct. Basically, an undercover cop gets killed at a club called Purgatory. At first it seems like he was a dirty cop who was punished by some vigilante, but the corruption goes deep into the 128th precinct and cutting through the muck is harder than expected because the Internal Affairs Bureau is involved.

Most amusing Eve-Roarke thing in the book? Don Webster of IAB and former romantic interest of Eve lets his lingering feelings show, and Roarke doesn't take kindly to this puppy drooling on his territory. Fight! Fight! Fight!

Eh, not one of my favorite Eve books, but still entertaining.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Author: Julia Quinn
Published: September 1996 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 6/10

Here's the dud for the Splendid and Dancing at Midnight trilogy. Dunford was a great and funny supporting character in those books and he did deserve his own book, especially after Belle bet him a thousand pounds that within a year, he'd be married and blissfully happy with it. At least it wasn't a spectacular, go-down-in-flames kind of dud.
Henrietta Barrett has never followed the dictates of society. She manages her elderly guardian's remote Cornwall estate, wears breeches instead of frocks, and answers to the unlikely name of Henry. But when her guardian passes away, her beloved home falls into the hands of a distant cousin.

William Dunford, London's most elusive bachelor, is stunned to learn that he's inherited property, a title... and a ward bent on making his first visit his last. Henry is determined to continue running Stannage Park without help from the handsome new lord, but Dunford is just as sure he can change things... starting with his wild young ward. But turning Henry into a lady makes her not only the darling of the ton, but an irresistible attraction to the man who thought he could never be tempted.
I was so disappointed because Splendid and Dancing at Midnight were so wonderful. I think it's because I didn't like Henry very much. Well, I tend to dislike female characters who want to go by male names, because it makes for very odd love scenes.

I hated their post-marriage conflict, where Henry believes some woman who was angry she didn't get Dunford, saying that Dunford is keeping a mistress despite his declarations of love and devotion. For such an outspoken young lady, Henry was remarkably dim. Yes, she saw Dunford visit his mistress (he was ending the relationship), but she didn't bother confronting him about it. This was the girl who had no problem duping him into the perception that Stannage Park was a poor farm where he, as baron, would have to muck out stalls, chase after pigs, and eat nothing but porridge and mutton.

And then she makes him believe that she married him just so she wouldn't have to leave Stannage Park and she lied about loving him. I didn't think Dunford would be that dim either, to be such a poor judge of character that he believed everything was faked.

Disappointing, but thankfully, Quinn has so many other books to read.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Blood Brothers

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: November 27, 2007 (Jove)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: The Sign of Seven Trilogy #1
Rating: 10/10

I have to wait until May 2008 to read the next in the trilogy?

Excellent spooky elements. Fewer things horrify me more than the idea of a monster on the other side of my non-ground floor window in the middle of the night. I imagine Blood Brothers is a combination of Stephen King and Nora Roberts. Don't take my word for it though, as I've tried to like King, but can't because I don't want to read about the character's alcoholism when all I want is a good scary story (not that alcoholism isn't scary).

Basically, three boys accidentally release a demon on their birthday, and every seven years, for seven days in July, their town goes crazy, with people hurting each other and having no memory of it when the week is over. The boys, now men, try to help as much as possible during every occurrence. Each of the three has special psychic powers (i.e. seeing into the past, the future, etc.) and have remarkable healing powers.

This first entry into the Sign of Seven Trilogy focuses on Caleb and Quinn, the partner fate has handed him. Quinn is doing research on the town of Hawkins Hollow and the odd events that occur every seven years, and contacts Caleb a town leader and descendant of the town founders. While she's investigating, Caleb takes her into the haunted woods where lots of creepy things happen, and she's also stalked by the demon as well.

As the book progresses, the other members of their group convene. Fox, who still lives in Hawkins Hollow, and Gage, playboy/gambler, and Layla and Cybil, two more women who will pair up with the Fox and Gage by the end of the trilogy. I didn't enjoy Roberts' Circle Trilogy, where all six characters were introduced in the same book, but the book's featured couple was lost in the mix. I was afraid this new trilogy would suffer the same fate, but I can happily say that Blood Brothers balances the scary with the developing romance and the large cast of supporting characters.

The most disappointing thing is the six months' wait until the second book, The Hollow. If I'd bothered to check into this, I would've tried slowing down my reading!

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Offer from a Gentleman

Author: Julia Quinn
Published: July 2001 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Bridgerton Family #3
Rating: 5/10

I can definitely say this is my least favorite Julia Quinn, and rather oddly, most reviews rave about this installment in the Bridgerton series. My problem is not with the writing, but with the story.

Sophie Beckett is the illegitimate child of the Earl of Penwood. He takes her in out of guilt (not love) and raises her as his ward, despite all the servants knowing that she's his by-blow. When he marries, the story takes a turn towards the Cinderellan. His new countess is insulted by Sophie's presence and coldly tells the little girl that her two daughters (from her previous marriage) will be the daughters of the house and that Sophie is not to speak with any of them socially. Of course, the earl dies and his will forces the wicked stepmother to keep Sophie or her income will be made much smaller. She keeps Sophie in her house, but as a slave, performing the duties of three servants and not earning a wage, and also hides the fact that the earl left Sophie a dowry.

Benedict meets Sophie at the Bridgerton masquerade, which Sophie sneaks into with the help of her fellow servants. She and Benedict meet, but she never tells him her name and she leaves at midnight. It would've been better if she'd told him her name, but the book would've been too short that way. So we deal with the frustration of seeing Sophie kicked out of her house when her stepmother finds out what happened.

Several years later, Benedict happens to be attending a house party of one of his less-respectable friends, and saves Sophie, a servant in that household, from being gang raped. He takes her back to London and finds a place for her in his mother's household. All the time, Sophie is sad that Benedict didn't recognize her (she lost weight since hitting hard times and sold her long hair to a wigmaker) and Benedict realized he had feelings for Sophie, but was still hung up on that woman from the masquerade ball.

I was so fed up with Sophie's "woe is me, he doesn't remember me," when Benedict has never stopped thinking about her since that ball. And then Benedict is stupid enough to proposition Sophie, to set her up as his mistress. Ugh, there really was a severe lack of romance in this book. I kept waiting for Sophie to tell the truth about whose daughter she truly was, so Benedict could get over his "I can't marry a servant," even though his mother was so lovely, saying she would support his decision no matter what.

Definitely a dud. I'm glad I got this one from Paperbackswap rather than buying a new one like I've been doing for most of my Julia Quinns.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Witness in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: March 1, 2000 (Berkley)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #10
Rating: 9/10
I find it so hard to write much about Nora Roberts' Eve Dallas books because there are so many, and not much changes between the books, as timeline-wise, they're all very close together.

This one was a little special to me because the crime takes place onstage while Eve and Roarke are attending the performance. A lot of the investigation goes on backstage, which amused me so much because I used to stage manage when I was in high school.

And the crime? It was a little creepy how a stage knife was swapped for a real, but then all sorts of questions come up. Was it the actress wielding the weapon? Or did someone else switch the knife to let her take the blame? It's hard to narrow down a suspect when everyone hated the victim.

I haven't gotten tired of Eve and Roarke yet, as I love following characters as their relationship grows. As there's no real end in sight to the series, I guess it could get boring and repetitive, but I've not reached that point after ten books. Watching Peabody and McNab "date" is hilarious though and it's even more amusing watching Eve deal with it (entails the equivalent of her holding her hands over her ears and screaming LALALALALALALA).

Good fun read, satisfying my cravings for Eve and Roarke as always.

Friday, December 07, 2007

An Enchanted Season

Authors: Maggie Shayne, Erin McCarthy, Nalini Singh, and Jean Johnson
Published: October 2, 2007
Category: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 8/10

The cover says that this is a holiday collection, but I didn't get much of a holiday feel from the stories as I read them. The season was more of a passing background detail and I wouldn't have missed it.

Melting Frosty by Maggie Shayne
This is one of those romances where a lot of cliches are thrown in. Complete strangers who are totally opposite of each other are stuck in a remote location due to the weather. A Serendipity-like coincidence shows that the two were meant to be together. I didn't really feel the romance, as the characters slept together because there was nothing else to do in the middle of a snowstorm, and the fact that she had his father's long-lost hat meant that they were supposed to be together.

Charlotte's Web by Erin McCarthy
This story was pretty amusing. Charlotte and Will love each other, but they don't know the other's feelings. Charlotte's two younger sisters convince her to give in to her witchy heritage and construct a lust spell for Will. The younger sisters can see Charlotte's and Will's feelings plainly even though the two are so oblivious to it and tell Charlotte this. She goes along with the plan but tells the truth to Will, only to find that her sisters are right about his feelings. This one was sweet despite the steaminess, and comes in second to Beat of Temptation.

Beat of Temptation by Nalini Singh
This was my favorite of all the stories. In Singh's Psy/Changeling series, Tamsyn and Nate are already mates and have a family. Beat of Temptation is the story of their tumultuous courtship. Tammy and Nate are both members of the DarkRiver leopards, and have been lucky enough to find each other as mates. However, when the mating bond appeared, Tammy was only fifteen, and Nate waited for her to grow up. After several years of distancing himself from her, he's used to ignoring the bond, and tells Tammy that she needs to experience life for herself before they become mates. However, Tammy has loved Nate for so long that she doesn't need to go anywhere else to be truly happy. All the relationships in the series so far have been psy-changeling, so this story really gives you insight into the mating bond between two changelings. The fact that it was Christmas during the story didn't affect the plot. It could've been any time of year and the story would've been fine.

Gifts of the Magi by Jean Johnson
I was a little confused by this one. An engaged couple run an inn that has run into some financial trouble. A few men trying to make trouble for them are stuck in the inn as well, when three odd travelers show up needing rooms. During their stay, the couple's financial troubles are solved and they make friends with the jerks who were threatening them at the beginning of the events. It was weird and I wasn't really interested in this assortment of characters. Miracles seemed to happen with these three travelers, and the characters were puzzled, but didn't think anything of it. To be honest, I was really bored, and it wasn't much of a romance and not sure if it really counted as a paranormal either.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Author: Julia Quinn
Published: May 1995 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 10/10

Splendid is the book that comes before Dancing at Midnight, which I picked up at the library and loved. Of course I had to run out and buy the aptly-named other half of the duology, and this may be my favorite Quinn yet! Alex and Emma were so much fun to read, what with Alex's belief that all women are after his fortune and title, and Emma's desire to go back to America and run her father's shipping company.

There are two things everyone knows about Alexander Ridgely. One, he's the Duke of Ashbourne. And two, he has no plans to marry anytime soon...

That is until a redheaded American throws herself in front of a carriage to save his young nephew's life. She's everything Alex never thought a woman could be - smart and funny, principled and brae. But she's a servant, completely unsuitable for a highborn duke - unless, perhaps, she's not quite what she seems...

American heiress Emma Dunster might be surrounded by Englishmen, but that doesn't mean she intends to marry one - even if she has agreed to participate in one London Season. When she slipped out of her cousins' home, dressed as a kitchen maid, all she wanted was one last taste of anonymity before her debut. She never dreamed she'd find herself in the arms of a dangerously handsome duke... or that he'd be quite so upset when he discovered her true identity. But true love tends to blossom just when one least expects it, and passion can melt even the most stubborn of hearts.

I often complain about how the hero and heroine should be truthful with one another, but in most romances, there's something they keep hidden from each other (i.e. the fact they actually love the other person or are that same person they met several years ago in a masquerade). I understand why it happens so much, as there wouldn't be much conflict to write about and be entertained by, but I feel like the conflict and ignorance of the characters crosses my imaginary "level of tolerable annoyance" boundary. Splendid manages to have this conflict and entertain me, but resolve the conflict before I get annoyed.

For example, Emma's cousin, Ned, loses at cards to a cheater, and she would help him pay the debt, but can't touch her funds until she's married or reaches a certain age. She proposes to Alex, who was planning to propose to her by the end of the week, and he's so happy and they make plans. Then he asks her what made her propose, and she says, "I needed money...", triggering his distaste of marriage, as he believed that women were interested only in money and titles. At this point, the usual romance novel would drag this out until almost the end of the book, but Alex realizes his mistake the next day after waking up with a horrid hangover.

The resolution of that conflict didn't end the book, as Quinn found more than enough to keep the book going, with Emma saving Belle from the scumbag who cheated Ned at cards. Of course, Alex had to save Emma and Belle, as her rescue didn't go quite to plan, and after being wounded, he told Emma that he would lock her up.

I couldn't get enough of this book. In fact, I think I have to read Dancing at Midnight again because Emma and Alex play such large supporting roles. Time to buy more books that don't fit in my bookcase!